Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service relies on digital Internet Protocol (IP) based networks to connect one telephone over another. Most of these cloud-based systems use the internet. They can place calls to and receive calls from anywhere with high speed internet access. This includes most developed countries around the globe.
Ever since the Vonage phone company helped bring VoIP phone service into the mainstream, VoIP has attracted lots of interest over the past decade or so, because of how cheaply decent phone service can be had (in some cases, for FREE!). But while VoIP fills most telephone needs, and for a much lower cost, we strongly suggest not moving to it without study. First figure out that VoIP will indeed meet your home or business phone needs. Below, we discuss the pros and cons of VoIP phone service, to help in wisely choosing VoIP or not.
VoIP Phone Service Pros, Benefits, Features, and Advantages
Phone calls sound good so long as your broadband Internet connection has enough bandwidth to handle all the calls that might occur over it from within your home or business. Pone sound quality over digital links has improved markedly during the past decade plus, with advances in audio compression, increases in available bandwidth, faster computer processors, and better packet switching and routing. The distance from the caller to the called, degrades sound quality much less than in earlier public switched telephone network (PSTN) systems. A call from PA to CA sounds just as clear and noiseless as a local call to the pizzeria down the street. With few exceptions, most IP-routed calls offer audio quality on par with the PSTN. Better sometimes. Since the internet carries digital packets, it is less subject to interference like fading signals, whistles, hisses, et al than the long distance lines of the past.
Quickly Makes Connections
Dial a number, and within one to three seconds, the phone at the other end starts ringing. No long waiting until a suitable trunk line frees up.
Cheaper monthly subscription prices and per-call charges are significantly lower from most VoIP providers. We’ve used VoIP since 2010. At that time, we switched from a traditional landline service provider, to a VoIP subscription from the local cable company. For less than have the monthly fee, we got unlimited local and long distance, along with fifteen calling features at no additional cost, including voice mail. call forwarding, call waiting, anonymous call rejection, call waiting, call blocking, web access to voice mail, et al. Nowadays, a free VoIP offering from Google Voice provides unlimited long distance within the US and Canada as well as and unlimited local calling. High competition among VoIP providers. This ensures that monthly and per-call costs will remain cheap and may even fall even further in the years to come, and that available features will continue to expand.
VoIP Phone Service Pros and Cons: Reduced Up-Front Business Expenses
A company thinking about giving up their old PBX phone system and adopting VoIP phones, need spend very little added hardware costs, especially if their buildings are already wired for internet access. With low-cost VoIP adapters, they can even use their existing analog phones on their VoIP service of choice.
Low Costs for Home VoIP Phone Service Users
You likely already have a broadband internet connection in your home. If so, then you may incur no added subscription expenses if you talk on internet phone on your computer. But using analog phone equipment (telephones, answering machines, caller Id boxes, Etc.) on VoIP, requires a VoIP phone adapter such as the Obihai OBi202 VoIP telephone adapter, for under $80 US.
More Features than Older Phone Systems
Besides call forwarding, call waiting, voice mail, and anonymous call rejection, VoIP providers offer advanced call blocking and call screening features. They also offer as translation of received voice mails into text email messages. VoIP can also translate emails into voice mails, where an electronically made voice reads the email to the recipient. Most VoIP systems also support video calls and teleconferencing.
No Trunk Lines Needed
VoIP relies on the non-specialized internet infrastructure. It piggy-backs on already laid cables and satellite links. Plus, it works over any broadband network that passes internet traffic.
VoIP Phone Service Pros and Cons: Many VoIP Products on the Market
Most analog phone products are now re packaged as VoIP end points, such as FAX machines, cordless and corded telephones, and speakerphones for the office. While these may cost slightly more than their analog counterparts, again, with so many vendors selling them, prices remain flat and will likely fall in the future; another benefit of competition. Also, PC and Mac computers may serve as VoIP phones so long as they have mics, speakers, and VoIP software. A very wide range of equipment and apps enables VoIP functioning. When choosing a VoIP provider, be sure that your choice supports all the equipment you’d like to use on it.
Control Phone Features Via the Web
Most VoIP providers offer a web site where the user can do the following…
- Sign in.
- Adds calling features to his phone.
- Choose an international long distance provider.
- Listen to his voice mails.
- Controls which callers to block.
- And so on.
VoIP Phone Service Supports Multimedia Applications
Some equipment lets you ,while talking on the phone, do the following.
- Send files to the party you’re speaking with.
- Start a video chat with them.
- Let them see your computer screen on theirs.
- Draw on a whiteboard that they then can see and draw on too.
They tailor VoIP software to seamlessly integrate these features into one super-charged phone experience for the user.
VoIP can Work over WiFi
As is true with any internet-enabled application, WiFi-equipped VoIP phones and adapters can access the internet via wireless networks. So, this averts the hardship of running extra Ethernet cables. Wherever there’s WiFi, this equipment will work.
VoIP is Portable
You can take the VoIP phone anywhere, and it will work when connected to any broadband connection. The phone number for that device need not change when you take it to a new place. So you’ll always get your calls on that phone, no matter where you plug it in.
VoIP Phone Service Pros and Cons: Unlimited Domestic Talk Time
With most providers, unlimited long distance minutes is a given. Free of domestic long distance and roaming charges, you can talk on VoIP without worries of raising your phone bill. Just pay the fixed monthly fee, and talk all you want. While international calls are often not free, they are dirt cheap nonetheless. In fact, some providers only charge a penny a minute for them.
VoIP is indeed the way phones are headed. So, any equipment you buy now, will very likely still work on networks ten years from now.
VoIP phones work Almost Just Like Analog Phones
You pick up the receiver and hear a dial tone. You dial the number (area code plus exchange plus local number), and you hear the ring tone. Then when the party at the other end answers, the conversation sounds virtually the same as it used to on PSTN lines. So, beyond setup, there’s almost no training expense in switching to VoIP, since they look, feel, and sound very much like phones always have behaved.
Choose your Own Phone Number
Many VoIP providers allow you to pick the phone number for your device from a list of available numbers. PSTN providers often do not allow this. They assign you the next free number in their list, and that’s that.
VoIP Phone Service Cons, Limitations, Problems, and Complaints
Cabling and Hardware differs from Analog Systems
VoIP devices connect to the internet via either WiFi or an Ethernet cable. These cables feature dissimilar connectors and more wires inside the cables. So, they do not fit the sockets in older phone equipment.
But you still can use older hardware with a VoIP adapter. This device converts digital signals into signals into analog for these devices.
More Easily Hacked
Since VoIP routes calls through the internet, nefarious folks can “listen in” on these calls, spoof callers and fool people into believing that they’re talking to a close friend when in fact, they’re talking to a stranger. Not as secure thus, as the old PSTN. There’s less control over how the system routes internet traffic from caller to caller. So if your call happens to pass through shadowy VoIP servers, your security could be compromised. This is far less the case with the PSTN, since they better protect its wires with anti wire tapping laws.
Variable Call Sound Quality
The fidelity of a VoIP call may degrade as more internet traffic flows across the same lines. You may hear strange noise, get silence, long delays, or choppiness. For slower connections, you might have to limit using other devices while talking on the phone. Also, latency, packet jitter, and echo (your own voice coming back into your ear after a delay) may create distraction in calls. Due to the time needed to process the audio signals, delays are a tenth to a quarter second between the time you speak, and the time that the caller on the other end hears you. But this delay is not apparent unless you happen to be within earshot of the phone at the other end of the call.
But we rarely if ever found any of these sorts of losses in our VoIP phone calls, even while watching movies on Netflix. VoIP cuts these problems, as long as the supporting internet connection is fast enough.
Non Dedicated Lines
VoIP shares internet bandwidth with other services (email, web browsing, file copying, et al), and so, may suffer when traffic from these sources increases. But advances in QoS (quality of service) technologies, that assign its voice-carrying data packets higher priority on the network, VoIP phones usually work well, even in the face of moderate network congestion. Again, as networks speed up, we imagine seeing less impact on VoIP operation due to heavy traffic loads from other internet-based activities.
Needs an Internet Connection
You must have access to a broadband internet connection in order for VoIP appliances to operate. So, this means that should your connection go down, so too will your VoIP phones.
Needs External Power
VoIP devices are not powered directly from the telephone line as analog telephone equipment was. They require either batteries or mains power. So, a power failure will render your phones non working; a situation that many businesses especially, may find untenable. If you’re going VoIP, be sure to invest in some decent backup power. VoIP providers, unlike the traditional landline phone companies, do not provide the power necessary to run the attached equipment.
Limited E911 service
Since VoIP phones can function from any location where Internet is available, figuring out exactly where they are located at any given time is current a technological challenge. So, keep a cell phone around for placing emergency calls, if you do migrate to VoIP. Providers are working to add E911 capability to their VoIP systems. But at present, E911 coverage is spotty. Be sure therefore, to read the end user license agreements with any service you’re considering, to figure out exactly what E911 access they do or do not provide.
Few Universal VoIP Standards
Not every VoIP device can communicate with every other VoIP device, as some use different protocol standards. Particularly true in computer-to-computer telephony, where differing software and hardware versions can create faulty IP links. However, the devices designed specifically to emulate traditional telephones usually interoperate well.
Needs Computer Processing Power
Compared to an analog phone, a VoiP phone’s innards are more complex. The VoIP phone is after all, a little computer, with memory, processors, and some storage. As such, VoIP phones are subject to more failure than those tank-like phones of decades past.
VoIP Phones Cost More to Buy
Due to this complexity and the high tech parts and software inside, VoIP phones are a bit more expensive to buy, than legacy phones. Over time though, this cost difference has shrunk. It will likely keep trending that way.
Not as Reliable as the PSTN (Yet)
VoIP relies much more on equipment that many companies control. So some of this stuff gets better care than others. This varies from company to company. So, some parts of the internet are more prone to outage than others. Viruses and malware can infect routers, switches, and even the phones. This can cause phone outages. A
lso, the end user parts are more complicated as mentioned above. So they have many more chances for failure. Finally, since VoIP equipment need external power, they can go down during a power outage unless they have back up power.
Our Thoughts on VoIP Phone Service Pros and Cons
As long-time VoIP users ourselves, we are still excited about this tech. We encourage you to explore it fyourself. You could be pleasantly surprised. By moving to a VoIP phone service, you could cut that $60+ phone bill. You can also reduce the number of junk calls you receive by using the advanced call blocking features in VoIP. We find our VoIP phone service to be a great value, and feel that you will too.
List of Popular VoIP Service Providers
Check out the links below to some VoIP phone service providers.
- AT&T. Scalable, low cost, and comes from a veteran company in the telephone business.
- Atlantic Broadband (regional) Cable TV, phone, and internet provider.
- Comcast Xfinity (regional) Cable TV, phone, and internet provider.
- Skype An audio-video VoIP phone service primarily used between computers, although vendors do sell telephone-like Skype devices for traditional-looking telephone functionality.
- Vonage Phone company specifically developing business telephone services and products for the VoIP market.
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References for VoIP Phone Service Pros and Cons
- What is VoIP? on Wikipedia
- 2019-05-07: Added targeting for ‘VoIP Phone Service’, removed ad code, and added tags and subheadings.
- 2016-12-06: Added the Related Posts section.
- 2016-12-05: Originally posted.